Opinion: ‘We must be strong in the face of evil’

Peterborough’s MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 23rd October 2021, 2:15 pm
Floral tributes to Sir David Amess MP outside Parliament on October 19, 2021 (Photo by Rob Pinney/Getty Images)

Sir David Amess was my friend. He was murdered last week and I am still in shock. As all the tributes to Sir David have proved, he was a wonderful man and an incredibly dedicated MP.

That he was stabbed at a surgery, where he was meeting and helping his constituents, added to the sense that this was an attack on democracy itself.

Unimaginable pain and grief has befallen his wife and children. Nothing can fill their personal loss. The rest of us are left doing our best to honour his memory and ensure some good emerges from these horrific events.

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It was touching for the queen to grant the prime minister’s request to make Southend a city – one of David’s most fervent wishes. That news would have produced one of his famous beaming smiles.

We must also do more to challenge the corrosive, and often abusive, cynicism towards those in public life. Most politicians and MPs are not in it ‘for themselves’, still less ‘corrupt’ or ‘nasty’ or any of the other baseless claims that I see every day.

Another lost colleague, James Brokenshire, proves that someone can reach the cabinet and still be a thoroughly decent person. James was respected across all political divides. His recent death from lung cancer was terribly sad.

Political disagreement is just that. A difference of opinion, based on different political philosophies and beliefs. It is not evidence that someone is a bad person, deliberately doing ‘bad’ things.

Labour MPs of a firmly socialist disposition got to their feet on Monday to praise a committed Thatcherite, because he was a good man who worked hard for his constituency. And most of them are good men and women too, however much I disagree with their views. This needs to be acknowledged more often and more widely.

Above all, we must do more about the extremist material that is all too easily found online. The murders of Jo Cox and Sir David are a stark warning of what happens when extremism of any variety goes unchecked.

There is now a debate around the security and safety of MPs when we are out-and-about in our constituencies, particularly at advertised events and surgeries.

In my view, the best way for me to honour the memory of David is to follow his open and hardworking 
example. Being visible and approachable is part of my job.

Like other MPs, I receive threats of violence – and even sinister comments about my family – but I don’t instinctively feel unsafe. I think police officers and A&E staff, for example, face far worse.

I will continue to hold events and surgeries. Obviously, I will listen to police and security advice, but this won’t stop me turning up and meeting people.

Nor do I intend to hide away in other ways. Peterborough is my city. I grew up here, live here and my wife and I socialise here. That won’t change. You’ll still see us in local shops, pubs and restaurants.

And I have already arranged my next pop-up surgery at Asda. I held one in McDonald’s prior to lockdown, and another in The Ploughman pub in Werrington – as well as countless others in my constituency office.

We cannot let the enemies of democracy win.

For a constituency surgery appointment, please email: [email protected]